Bally’s New CEO Looks to Import His U.K. Online-Betting Skills
(Bloomberg) -- One of the U.K.’s most-popular sports TV shows is called “Soccer Saturday.” It appears on Sky Sports, has been parodied on the Apple TV+ hit “Ted Lasso” and consists of a host and four pundits just chatting about games.
Lee Fenton, the new chief executive officer of Bally’s Corp., wants to create similar programming as he looks to promote the company’s sports-betting business in the U.S. The British executive took the top job there following its $2.7 billion merger with his U.K.-based Gamesys Group Plc. The deal, which closed this week, unites a large European online betting house with Bally’s, which owns 14 casinos in 10 states.
“We have that opportunity on steroids to do that kind of content,” Fenton said this week in an interview at the casino industry’s Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas. “We can create that kind of programming and that kind of interest to feed people.”
Online wagering has exploded in the three years since the Supreme Court allowed sports betting outside of Nevada. Bally’s, based in Providence, Rhode Island, has grown rapidly in recent years -- from a regional racetrack and casino operator into a national player.
Under its largest shareholder, Standard General LP, Bally’s acquired a string of casinos from Nevada to New Jersey, as well as online betting businesses. The company signed a deal with Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. last year to put its Bally brand on 19 regional sports TV networks and collaborate on programming.
Shares of Bally’s have risen 5% this year. The combined Bally’s and Gamesys had about $1.4 billion in 2020 revenue.
Others in the gambling industry are now chasing similar tie-ins between online betting firms, land-based casinos and media companies.
“We did our shopping early,” Soo Kim, Standard General’s managing partner and Bally’s chairman, said in the interview.
Kim said changes in the works at Bally’s could include a rebranding and possibly even a complete reconstruction of the famous Tropicana resort in Las Vegas, which Bally’s is in the process of acquiring.
“We’re going through all the choices,” he said. “Do we renovate? Do we start over?”
Gamesys operates the Virgin Games and Monopoly Casino brands, among other online businesses. Fenton, a U.K. native, had worked at the company since 2008, the last six as CEO.
He’s eager to apply more of the skills learned in online betting overseas to the U.S. market. While Gamesys offered online betting in New Jersey, it didn’t have the broader reach to tap into traditional casino customers in multiple states.
He cites the company’s popular title, Double Bubble, an online slot machine game the company developed. After noticing a core group of fans kept returning to play it, Gamesys began promoting the game more heavily to like-minded consumers and turned it into a hit.
“We let that data guide us and direct us,” Fenton said. “That’s why I think we’ve been successful in the online space. That’s the dream and that’s what we’re here to do.”
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